Zimbabwean authorities confirmed July 31 that they want to extradite the American dentist who killed Cecil the lion. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official said the State Department is looking into the matter. (AP)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to talk to Walter Palmer. So far, that hasn't happened.
Investigators for the service knocked on the front door of Palmer's house, stopped by his dental office, called his telephone numbers and filled his inbox with e-mails. Palmer, a hunting enthusiast who is accused of illegally killing a rare African lion in Zimbabwe early this month, couldn't be lured out of hiding.
Late Thursday afternoon, though, the agency's Office of Law Enforcement was contacted by somebody on Palmer's behalf. "The Service's investigation is ongoing and appreciates that Dr. Palmer's representative reached out," the agency said in a statement Friday.
If and when he materializes, Palmer could face an extradition request from officials in Zimbabwe, who have signaled a request to pursue one.
"We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his extradition to Zimbabwe so
that he can be held accountable for his illegal action," Zimbabwe's environment minister Oppah Muchinguri said at a news conference on Friday, according to Reuters .
As of Friday morning, U.S. officials said they had not received an official extradition request.
Muchinguri said Palmer slipped away before government officials realized what had happened to the country's most famous lion.
"It was too late to apprehend the foreign poacher because he had already absconded to his country of origin," Muchinguri said, according to Reuters.
Palmer, a dentist in Minnesota, has fallen off the radar since Tuesday, when reports first surfaced identifying him as the hunter of Cecil the lion, a celebrity in Zimbabwe. In one of his only public statements. Palmer said Tuesday "I deeply regret" killing "a known, local favorite" and that he relied on local guides. He said he was led to believe the hunt was legal.
"I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have," Palmer said at the time.